Billy Joel, singer, songwriter and piano man extraordinaire, has been a major force in popular music for more than 20 years. A native Long Islander, born in 1949, Joel grew up in Hicksville at the peak of the post World War II baby boom. At the age of four, Billy first discovered and became fascinated with classical music, a love that has stayed with him to this day. He studied classical piano, but as he progressed, he learned how to turn a favorite Beethoven sonata into a boogie woogie romp.
Among his earliest influences, Billy cites Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy, along with the great American composers, Copeland, Gershwin and Ellington. His more contemporary influences include Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
As he was turning 15, Joel, already a skilled musician, joined his first band, The Echoes (later The Lost Souls). A veteran of many Long Island bands, including The Hassles, and later Attila, it was as a solo artist that Joel made his first significant recording, Cold Spring Harbor (named after a town on Long island's North Shore) on the Paramount label.
Signed by Columbia Records in 1973, Joel recorded Piano Man. Both the album and the single went gold soon after their release, while his third effort, Streetlife Serenade, garnered a first group of many awards to come, including "Best New Male Vocalist" (Cash Box); "Male Artist of the Year" (Music Retailer); and "Record of the Year" for "Piano Man," (Stereo Review). Joel went on to become one of the major forces of the recording artists of the 70s, '80s and now…